Thursday 3 October 2019 3:36 AM UTC
London Oct 3: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday proposed a new Brexit plan aimed at removing the need for customs checks at the Irish border, calling the EU-backed approach a “bridge to nowhere”.
Johnson’s plan, published by the UK government, says the revised agreement “should make a firm commitment to avoiding customs checks, regulatory checks, or related physical infrastructure at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland”.
In an accompanying letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Johnson says his deal “removes the so-called backstop,” an EU-backed plan that ensures the Irish border stays open by keeping Britain temporarily aligned to EU customs rules.
The UK parliament rejected the old Brexit agreement three times because of the backstop provision.
“The proposed ‘backstop’ is a bridge to nowhere, and a new way forward must be found,” Johnson’s letter to Juncker says.
Johnson said his plan is built on preserving the Good Friday agreement that ended decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland in which thousands died.
That deal was based on the premise of an open frontier with Ireland — a principle that Johnson’s plan said Britain “is absolutely committed to upholding”.
In place of customs checks at the border, which would have entered into force once a Brexit transition period expires in 2021, the proposal says that “goods movements between Northern Ireland and Ireland will be notified using a declaration”.
Physical checks would be conducted at traders’ premises or specific, designation locations but not at EU member Ireland’s border with British Northern Ireland.
Ireland has strongly opposed the reintroduction of border customs checks, calling them a dangerous approach.
In place of customs checks, the UK plan would create “an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland” that covers “all goods” — not just agriculture and food products mentioned in earlier reported drafts of the plan.
This regulatory zone, which would see Northern Ireland temporarily follow EU standards and regulations, would be “dependent on the consent of those who live under it, through the Northern Ireland institutions,” the plan says.
As a result, agricultural products entering Northern Ireland from mainland Britain would undergo inspections “as required by EU law”.
“They would be subject to identity and documentary checks and physical examination by UK authorities as required by the relevant EU rules,” the plan says.
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